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Hartsburg, USA: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 21, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913266
  • ASIN: B005Q61WB4
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,698,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mizner (Political Animal) goes micro in his second novel, encapsulating sometimes awkwardly the current American political landscape in a dying Ohio steel town's school board election. Hartsburg used to be a bellwether community that voted correctly on every presidential candidate, but a conservative shift shattered the town's decades-long streak of infallibly picking the winner in 1992. Long frustrated with the "thumpers," local newspaper columnist and failed Hollywood screenwriter Wallace Cormier decides he has to do something after his beloved main street cinema is turned into a church. His plan? To run for the school board against Bevy Baer, a churchgoing mother of five who wants to push an agenda of creationism and zero tolerance. Both candidates get help from veteran political consultants, and things get ugly: rumors circulate about Wallace's mother's sexual activity, and a scandalous film surfaces that reveals a lot about Bevy that she's been trying to hide. While Mizner overuses generalizations and stereotypes about liberals and conservatives, the thin secondary characters are countered by an earnest depiction of the candidates' humanity and depth of conviction. The novel ends up being much more sad than funny, more straight that satirical, and it offers an apt examination of divides that aren't as cut and dried as red vs. blue. (Aug.)
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Review

"[An] engagingly warm novel that humanizes the country's culture wars…[Hartsburg] could have been a slapstick satire, as it details a school-board campaign pitting a born-again Christian with a questionable past against a failed screenwriter who has returned to his Ohio hometown, bringing some of his Hollywood values with him. Though Mizner has fun with his characters, he is more concerned with illuminating them than with making fun of them...This is fun to read."  --Kirkus, starred review
 
"The story is sad and funny, pathetic and compelling by turns. It shows, as voters everywhere have learned, that all politics are local. Recommended." --Library Journal
 
"Hartsburg, USA is smart, funny, and provocative, a closely observed, big hearted novel about small town America. David Mizner's eye for detail and compassion for his characters, make this book bigger than the red state/blue state debate or democrats and republicans. He dives into the complexities and contradictions of his characters' political and personal lives with bold prose and a fierce wit. David Mizner is a young novelist to watch and Hartsburg, USA is a novel to savor."--Lisa Glatt, author of A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That

"David Mizner's novel, built around a school board election, is about nothing less than the soul of American democracy. This is a wry and moving story that manages to be funny, enthralling, and about real issues all the while keeping us on tenterhooks about a hotly contested election at its heart. Mizner's feat--allowing red state readers to care about wholly convincing blue state characters, and bringing red state characters vividly to life for blue state readers--is an unusually accomplished piece of fiction, impossible to put down, highly relevant to us all today."--Neil Gordon, author of The Company You Keep and Sacrifice of Isaac

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Customer Reviews

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The book was incredibly enjoyable and thought provoking.
M. Weinberg
This is a terrific new novel by David Mizner, with his characteristically vivid, compressed prose and remarkably sympathetic and complex characters.
L. Sadoff
Mizner makes both his liberal and conservative leads as outsiders of sorts.
Mitch Baywatch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hugo on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
HARTSBURG, USA is a typical town in Midwest Ohio, once the political bellwether of the nation but now gripped in slow economic decay as factories and jobs move away, and where the only thing really growing is evangelical Christianity. In this context comes a hotly contested election for the local school board: on one side is Bevy Baer, a conservative born-again Christian mother of five, and on the other is the liberal journalist and failed screenwriter Wally Cormier. The two of them, diametrically opposed to each other, become intensely invested in the race far beyond the actual stakes, banners are raised on both sides, and in the process the election becomes a sort of referendum on which set of beliefs--and what kind of person--the people of Hartsburg really want for their community. The race is at turns passionate, hilarious, and not a little unsettling (it eventually turns personal and very dirty). The depth and the seriousness of the conflict is revealed in Baer's words: "Think about values you hold dear, values that are central to who you are. Values that are who are you... now imagine a teacher telling your child that those values are wrong. Imagine a teacher telling your child that you are wrong."

This is the crux of the American red-blue divide. Can fundamentally different sets of values be brought together, or even coexist? Perhaps fittingly, the author David Mizner seems to suggest two answers, on two levels. The first is the one expressed by Baer and the other characters: that liberals and conservatives are at war, and the only way to win is to destroy the other side. At the end of the novel, there is no sense that the political chasm has come any closer to being bridged, nor have any of the characters really changed or come to a new appreciation of things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Weinberg on December 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was the first work of Mr. Mizner's I've enjoyed, and it won't be the last. The book was incredibly enjoyable and thought provoking. Each time I put the book down I found myself thinking about what I'd just read, and reacting to it. While the plot involves a school board race, the book is really a fantastic character study of the novel's two main characters: Bevy and Wallace. He shows them both to be passionate, intelligent, and most of all, flawed. Mizner shows us that people on both ends of the political and idealogic spectrum experience the same human trial and tribulations. I found myself swaying between pity for and anger at both of these main characters. One thing I found most enjoyable is that even after completing the book I cannot tell whether Mr. Mizner himself is D or R, and that's a pleasant change from many politically themed novels where it's easy to tell by a few chapters in which way the author leans. Mizner shows that both characters have good in them, and have some bad in them. A wonderful read and I can't wait to get my hands on his other book, and hopefully, future books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nancy P. Marr on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The other comments are right - would a story of a small town school board election be worth the time to read it? the book is much more than that - it is an exploration of how people think and feel, how they are more than the stereotypes you think they are, and how events have their own energy but are shaped by real people - suspense builds up toward the end, and it is very real suspense, about who will win the election - and I worried about how I would feel if my person lost - but the ending is magnificent - the election seems less important than the two candidates and their relationship, with each other and the town - the writing is trim and energetic, yet warm and humane - the characters grow and become more interesting - and it is a subject that is important in our country at thiis time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Irvine on October 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having read Mizner's previous novel, I expected to enjoy this latest work. What I didn't expect was to be so engrossed I couldn't put it down. The characters are strongly sketched and real, the community alive with the sadness and promise of change, and the behind-the-scenes views of today's politics right on.

So often, in politics large and small, we forget that the other side has its own story to tell. David Mizner helps bridge the gap of understanding between right and left, with humor and more than a mad dash of reality.

If you enjoy a good read with the lessons neatly tucked in rather than thrown in your face, this is an excellent choice.
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